Sense Knocked Into Me

Friday the 13th was the beginning of my new life. It was June of 2008 when my boyfriend Aquila and I left Montreal to go WWOOFing across Canada.

Our first chosen farm destination captivated me with its description of horses, vegetable gardens, and maple syrup, but the promise of equines guided my soul. Nestled in magnificent cottage country near Rosseau Lake in the Muskoka regions of Ontario, my first steps on the farm were a waking dream.

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The horses were exactly how I imagined: majestic, intelligent, athletic, beautiful and inspiring. I, on the other hand, was not at all how I imagined: I was afraid. They were so BIG! I felt slow, unsteady, unsure of myself, and very vulnerable.

There were 24 horses at the farm when Aquila and I arrived, each with their own personalities, gifts, and challenges.  I appreciated their gifts from afar, but I was very challenged up close. My heart was connected, but my body and mind betrayed me. I tried not to let it show, but the horses were never fooled; they knew exactly how I felt and treated me accordingly. In their pecking order, I was not a dominant, a leader, or even a friend. I was a fly, an annoying fly, trying to coax them into following me.

This became most apparent one day trying to lead a particularly pushy horse outside. Ace spotted something in the distance and decided to rear. I managed to keep hold of the lead line and avoid his hooves as they slammed down in his display of power. I felt quite proud! I can handle you, I said to myself. Just as the thought left my mind, Ace showed me the truth. He bolted, dislocating my shoulder in the process, and knocked me to the ground.

At that moment, I had two choices. Stand up, hobble away, blame Ace for being badly behaved, and carry my fear of horses perhaps forever. I chose option two. Stand up, pop my shoulder back into place, look inward, and keep learning.

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Talented photographer unknown.

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Seeing My Way Out

 

A shocking change of perspective was the key to unlocking my mind. Once I believed life was really mine to live, there was no going back.

My best friend, Aquila – now my husband – asked me to travel with him and I said YES. We had no idea where we were going, but we knew we were leaving the city where we felt suffocated. Leave school. Leave expectations. Leave unhappiness.

My understanding, free-spirited mother told us about WWOOF, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, where you volunteer in exchange for room and board. It sounded like the perfect opportunity for us to experience country life without being bound by a program with rigid timelines. Instead, we could choose from a variety of WWOOF host farms, and make our own arrangements as we travelled  throughout Canada.

We signed up to get the list of hosts with their sometimes wild and hilarious descriptions. One in particular jumped off the page, and we knew that would be our first destination. Horses, vegetable gardens, and maple syrup were all enticing features, but I could only envision horses. I could feel, and hear their hoof beats beckoning.

Romantic notions of being surrounded by their energy fuelled each day I had to wait before following my horse heart. They gave me wisdom when Aquila broke his hand just before we were supposed to leave. They gave me strength when life told me to wait, to care for my mum with breast cancer and support her during treatment.

When the day did come to finally leave the concrete jungle, horses gave me courage to step up onto that bus and journey into the unknown.

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To my future.

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